The city's dynamic dining scene may be young, but its resources are not
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler
What's the vibe here?
Spuntino is the quintessential date-night spot. On the one hand, it exudes old-fashioned romance: It's small, low-lit, filled with weathered wood and glowing copper, and run by warm, cheerful husband-and-wife team Elliot Strathmann and Cindhura Reddy. On the other, it’s an adventure, with a seasonal menu that sometimes colors way outside the lines of traditional Italian cuisine, and an uncommon, uncompromising wine list that makes grape geeks swoon. Even the background music—as anyone who’s listening closely knows—splits the difference between soothing and edgy.
Sounds impressive. Who else is here?
From a glance you’ll wish you knew the people around you. They’re all trading bites with discreet pleasure and asking what seem to be astute questions. Their expressions suggest they care about important things—and just the fact that you don’t know that for sure because they’re speaking at a respectful volume makes their companionship all the more attractive.
There's nothing to facilitate deep conversation quite like a good drinks list. What should we be drinking?
Strathmann oversees the wine list, which is packed tight with his discoveries; he works with several distributors to obtain even a few bottles at a time of small-production gems, many of them otherwise unavailable in Denver. Be it Swiss Chasselas, Corsican Sciaccarellu, or Calabrian Gaglioppo, your choice will likely be a grape variety you’ve never heard of from a region you didn’t know existed—at a price that makes exploration easy, with the majority of bottles in the $30 to $80 range. The small beer selection is equally smart, while the cocktails showcase local products—along with Strathmann’s zeal for housemade digestivi.
Sounds right up our alley. So on to the food. What are we ordering?
Pecans and black-eyed peas here, chorizo and chimichurri there, a little za’atar and preserved lemon over there—within an Italian frame, Reddy dots her canvas with global swirls and local swoops. The menu changes all the time, but signature starters include creamy housemade ricotta with pillow-soft rosemary focaccia; gorgeous octopus carpaccio, and elk tartare that nods to Reddy’s Indian heritage with masala aioli and ajwain-seed crisps. Another staple is Colorado goat, which might be braised over mascarpone polenta with gremolata or confited to fill agnolotti in a light herb sauce with corn. As for entrees, you can never go wrong with a pork chop or the brick chicken, but bold vegetarian creations always hold their own: Think golden-brown, yolk-spouting crostata di uovo or arugula, ricotta, and pine nut-filled phyllo wraps with parmesan croquettes in a pool of arugula cream.
How's the service?
The passion this young couple has tends to inspire loyalty, and there isn’t much turnover among their small staff, who are thoughtful, informed, and quick on their feet. Ask for Strathmann when choosing a wine; it’s simply a delight to hear him wax poetic on Italian terroir or indigenous grapes.
Sum it up for us—what's Spuntino best for?
This isn’t the place to bring colleagues—unless, of course, they're secretly more than colleagues. (No judgment.) Nor is it great if you're in a rush. Rather, it's the sort of intimate place to linger with loved ones—or would-be loved ones—over a leisurely evening.